Nestled in a small California valley approximately 15 miles away from the Pacific coast, Ojai is a tiny town with approximately 7,500 residents. However, despite its small size, the town offers plenty of things for visitors to see and do. The town is surrounded by beautiful scenery, including citrus groves and vineyards, but it also boasts excellent local cuisine, interesting museums and art galleries, and close proximity to the beautiful Los Padres National Forest. If you're planning a visit to this tiny hidden gem, here are the top things you'll want to include on your itinerary.
1.Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
© Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
Beatrice Wood was a famous New York artist and potter during the early 1900s, and the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts was founded to celebrate her life and works. In addition to the regular exhibits, the museum offers temporary exhibits showcasing up-and-coming artists. The center is open to the public Friday through Sunday between 11am and 5pm, and it often hosts workshops, classes, and lectures designed to educate the public about different approaches to the arts. There is also a small gift shop selling everything from books to unique pieces of artwork inspired by Beatrice Wood.
8585 Ojai Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-3381
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Created by the construction of a dam on Coyote Creek, Lake Casitas is a manmade lake that was built to provide water for drinking and for irrigation. The lake is surrounded by the Lake Casitas Recreation Area, which offers a disc golf course, boat and kayak rentals, a lakeview cafe open for breakfast and lunch, and a water park. Swimming is not permitted in the lake because the water is used for drinking and needs to be kept clean, but visitors are welcome to fish, boat, and camp at one of the 400 campsites along the shore.
3.Los Padres National Forest
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Covering mountains, rivers, and beaches, Los Padres National Forest is the second-largest national forest in California. One of the best ways to experience the forest's beauty is on foot, and there are a wide range of trails that cater to almost every fitness and ability level. The forest is home to 468 species of wildlife and approximately 1,200 plant species, making it a great destination for anyone interested in birdwatching or learning about the local flora and fauna. Some areas of the forest require special permits, which can be purchased from the Forest Service.
4.Ojai Meadows Preserve
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Designed and created to connect people with the natural world, the Ojai Meadows Preserve is a natural wetland area that has undergone extensive restoration after being badly damaged in the mid-1900s. The native plants have been restored, and the preserve is once again home to a diverse range of native animal species. In 2017, the Ojai Saddle Trails were opened to the public for the first time; all trails are approximately 1 mile in length and typically require 30 minutes of walking. Dogs are permitted on a leash, and visitors are asked to stay on the trails to help preserve the delicate ecosystem.
1447-1601 Maricopa Hwy, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-649-6852
5.Ojai Olive Oil
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One of the biggest olive oil orchards in Southern California, Ojai Olive Oil is a family-run business that harvests its olives by hand and uses organic farming practices. The company makes several different varieties of award-winning extra-virgin oil as well as olive oils infused with fruits and herbs; these can be purchased at the Sunday farmers market or right from the shop at the olive grove, which is open 7 days a week. Free guided tours of the olive groves and the olive mill are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and free tastings are available every day in the tasting room.
1811 Ladera Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-5964
6.Ojai Valley Museum
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Housed inside a former Catholic church, the Ojai Valley Museum is dedicated to sharing the art, history, and culture of the Ojai Valley. A number of semi-permanent exhibits introduce visitors to the most important events in the historic evolution of the valley, and a permanent wilderness diorama allows visitors to get a close look at 12 different species of birds and animals. An interpretive garden sits behind the building, and there is also an art gallery used to showcase works by local artists. The museum is open every day of the week except for Monday, and admission is by donation.
130 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-640-1390
7.Ojai Certified Farmers' Market
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Tucked away behind the arcade, the Ojai Certified Farmers' Market is open every Sunday morning between 9am and 1pm, rain or shine. The vendors come from Ojai as well as from the towns and farms in the surrounding area, and they sell everything from locally grown produce to handmade artisan soap. The selection of goods for sale varies, but visitors can typically expect to see honey and beeswax products, live plants and freshly cut flowers, locally caught seafood, and gourmet prepared food. Plenty of street parking is available, and the market often hosts live music performances to keep visitors entertained.
300 E Matilija St, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-698-5555
8.Valley View Preserve
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Encompassing 195 acres just outside of downtown Ojai, the Valley View Preserve is a protected open space that offers dozens of miles of hiking trails. The most popular trail is the Fox Canyon Trail, a beautiful 1-mile path that connects to Foothill Trail and U.S. Forest Service trail. Other options include the short but steep Luci’s Trail and the Foothill Trail; the Fox Canyon, Luci's, and Foothill trails can be combined for a long but satisfying walk around the preserve. Parking is available at the Pratt Trailhead, and a kiosk at the Fox Canyon Trailhead offers maps and information about the area's ecosystem.
9.Ventura River Preserve
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Nestled in the western Ojai Valley, the Ventura River Preserve protects almost 1,600 acres of land, including 3 miles of the beautiful Ventura River. The land was formerly the Rancho El Nido ranch, and today it provides a safe place for approximately 300 different species of plants and animals. There are many miles of trails open to visitors; guided tours of the preserve are offered several times a year, and other possible activities include hiking, horseback riding, and dog walking. The preserve can be accessed from three different trailheads, all of which offer plenty of parking.
1290 Meyer Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-649-6852
© Casa Barranca
Sitting on a ridge overlooking the stunning Ojai valley, Casa Barranca is a USDA-certified organic winery and an Arts and Crafts National Historic Landmark. The wines are carefully handcrafted from organic grapes grown in the Casa Barranca vineyard, and the winery facility itself was the first certified organic winery on the Central Coast. The estate is not open to the public, but it can be rented out for weddings and other special events. However, the winery's craftsman-style tasting room in downtown Ojai is well-worth a visit; tastings are offered every day of the week in the afternoon and evening.
208 E Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-640-1255
11.Casitas Water Adventure
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Part of the Lake Casitas Recreation Area, Casitas Water Adventure is a compact water park with two family-friendly water playgrounds. An 18-inch-deep lagoon boasts a central jungle gym with slides, bridges, and water features; parents can join their children in the water or relax on the complimentary lounge chairs. The other section offers a lazy river that passes by waterfalls and jet sprays, and tubes are available free of charge on a first-come first-served basis. Food and drink are not permitted inside the park, but picnic tables and a snack shack can be found just outside the entrance.
11311 Santa Ana Rd, Ventura, CA 93001, Phone: 805-649-1122
12.Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tours
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The original Santa Barbara wine tour company, Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tours offers custom wine tasting tours in five, six, and seven-passenger Jeeps. The professional drivers also serve as tour guides, narrating the journey as the Jeep travels through the winding back roads of the Ojai Valley. In addition to wine tastings at local wineries, customers can choose from a range of tours that offer everything from olive oil tastings to a stop at a local art studio. Door-to-door service is included in the rate, and tours are only available by advance reservation over the phone.
408 Foothill Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-3200
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Coffee Connection is a locally owned, community-oriented cafe and espresso bar that prides itself on serving organic and fair-trade coffee. In addition to carefully handcrafted drinks and delectable snacks and treats, visitors can always expect friendly and professional service with a smile. A good selection of milk alternatives is on offer, and guests are welcome to use the cafe's free Wi-Fi. The walls are often decorated with beautiful local art, and both indoor and outdoor seating are available. The cafe boasts two locations in the Ojai Valley, one in Meiners Oaks and the other in Oak Valley.
311 E El Roblar Dr, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-7821
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Family owned and operated, Friend's Ranch has been growing citrus fruits in the Ojai Valley for more than a century. The orchards grow everything from oranges to lemons to tangelos, but the fruit they're best known for is the Pixie tangerine, a sweet, seedless fruit that has become something of a local legend. Citrus fruits from the ranch are available for sale at several local stores, but you can also pick up bags of fruit and freshly squeezed juice from the Sunday morning farmer's market or stop by the packing house on a Tuesday or Friday morning.
15150 Maricopa Hwy, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-2871
15.Knead Baking Company
© Knead Baking Company
Founded by Bobbi Corbin in 2009, Knead Baking Company is a family-run artisan bakery that specializes in both sweet and savory treats. There is always a selection of seasonally inspired breads and desserts for visitors to choose from, many of which are made using locally sourced ingredients. The breakfast and lunch menus are available between 8am and 2pm, and baked goods are for sale until 4 pm or until they're sold out. Customers can enjoy their food either in the bakery or outside on the patio, and the menu also offers a selection of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages.
469 E Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 310-770-3282
16.Mob Shop Biking Tour
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Cycling is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the beauty of Ojai, and the Mob Shop offers exciting bike tours to visitors who'd like to get active and enjoy everything the area has to offer. There is a wide range of tours to choose from, which include everything from stops at cultural and historical landmarks to an exciting descent down Sulphur Mountain or a leisurely ride through fragrant citrus orchards. The company is also happy to offer customized tours; these must be arranged at least one week in advance. For visitors who'd prefer not to join a tour, the store sells and rents bicycles.
110 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-272-8102
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© Bart's Books
Since being established in 1964, Bart's Books has grown into America's largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore. The bookstore now has almost one million books for sale, including everything from rare art books worth thousands of dollars to 35-cent paperback specials that are offered for sale on the outdoor shelves via the honor system. These books can be purchased 24/7 by putting money through a slot in the door, but it's well worth visiting the store during opening hours to browse the rest of the book selection and to marvel at the lemon tree growing in the center of the building.
302 W Matilija St, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-646-3755
18.Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company
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Operating out of the Oso Ranch, the Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company offers trail rides, horseback riding lessons, and even pony rides for young children. Trail rides last 1 or 2 hours, and visitors can choose from pre-set itineraries that go along the River Valley Trail, through Rice Canyon, or into the Enchanted Forest. Children under the age of 6 can enjoy a pony ride through the ranch, which will allow them to see some of the other animals that live here. The ranch is open all year round, and visitors must arrange their rides or lessons in advance.
1290 Meyer Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, Phone: 805-890-9340
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19.Rose Valley Falls Trail
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Beginning at the Rose Valley Campground in Los Padres National Forest, the Rose Valley Falls Trail is a half-mile trail that leads to the base of a small but beautiful waterfall. Hikers will cross over Rose Creek several times before continuing up the canyon to the waterfall. The water runs over an arkosic sandstone cliff, which is easily eroded; visitors are asked to refrain from climbing around on the steep sections. Parking on the road outside the campground is free, but visitors who choose to park in the campground will have to pay a day-use fee.
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20.Ventura Food Tours Eating Ojai Tasting Tour
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Ojai boasts an excellent culinary scene, and there's no better way to experience it than through the Ventura Food Tours Eating Ojai Tasting Tour. The tour takes guests on a gentle stroll through Ojai, with stops at six boutique stores and restaurants along the way. In addition to sampling locally produced food and wines, visitors will have the chance to talk to some of the store owners and cooks to learn about what makes the cuisine in Ojai so special. Tours begin at 10:30am and last approximately 3 hours, and guests are required to book their tours at least 24 hours in advance.
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20 Best Things to Do in Ojai, California
- Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, Photo: Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
- Lake Casitas, Photo: Courtesy of motionshooter - Fotolia.com
- Los Padres National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of kenkistler1 - Fotolia.com
- Ojai Meadows Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of kenkistler1 - Fotolia.com
- Ojai Olive Oil, Photo: Courtesy of Ravil Sayfullin - Fotolia.com
- Ojai Valley Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Wendy G Weatherup - Fotolia.com
- Ojai Certified Farmers' Market, Photo: Courtesy of Leslie - Fotolia.com
- Valley View Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Lian - Fotolia.com
- Ventura River Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of xalanx - Fotolia.com
- Casa Barranca, Photo: Casa Barranca
- Casitas Water Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of Tropical studio - Fotolia.com
- Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tours, Photo: Courtesy of jovkovski1969 - Fotolia.com
- Coffee Connection, Photo: Courtesy of rakop_ton - Fotolia.com
- Friend's Ranch, Photo: Courtesy of Ekaterina - Fotolia.com
- Knead Baking Company, Photo: Knead Baking Company
- Mob Shop Biking Tour, Photo: Courtesy of NikonSteff - Fotolia.com
- Bart's Books, Photo: Bart's Books
- Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company, Photo: Courtesy of Jürgen Fälchle - Fotolia.com
- Rose Valley Falls Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Rachel - Fotolia.com
- Ventura Food Tours Eating Ojai Tasting Tour, Photo: Courtesy of naito8 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Georg Lehnerer - Fotolia.com